The reality of the world has changed dramatically since our Founding Fathers had the audacity to declare us politically independent. We find ourselves at once the most powerful nation in the world and yet simultaneously subject to worldly forces seemingly beyond our control.
In this new reality, our nation faces multiple profound threats: We find ourselves mired in a global war on terror; We find ourselves facing a looming global climate crisis; We find ourselves fearing the outsourcing of our jobs and our very economic preeminence in a globally competitive world.
While each of these threats has its own unique genesis, they may share at least one solution strategy in common. To see that potential solution, we must both recognize our global interdependence and the enduring virtue of independence.
We must see the economic reality of globalization, of the “flattening” of the world, and the promise and threat it holds for us. We must respond to the ratcheting of expectations on productivity and the centrality of a superbly educated workforce to keep our lead over the population powerhouses of China and India.
We must also acknowledge the global interdependence that brought us the tragedy of 9/11. The ability of loosely organized cells of radicals to inflict such pain on the most powerful nation on earth speaks volumes to how connected we are to the conditions of the rest of the world.
Finally, we must recognize the fundamental global interconnection of the biosphere on which we depend for life. We must accept responsibility for the role we play in anthropogenic global warming and the costly and disruptive consequences likely if we continue emitting greenhouse gases.
Once we recognize our interdependence, we must acknowledge one final dependence that draws them all together: Our over-dependence on oil. Foreign oil powers our economy, but it also enmeshes us in the volatile politics of the Middle East, creating enemies there of our presence, position, and power. Further, oil money enriches those who may fund terrorism against us. Of course, the burning of oil and its products is a primary contributor to greenhouse gas pollution, a major underlying cause of global warming and our impending climate crisis.
For both national security and environmental defense, then, we must find a way to wean ourselves of our oil addiction. To that end, I believe we must make a Declaration of Energy Independence.
As Thomas Friedman has suggested, we must promulgate a national program to eliminate, among other sources, foreign oil from our energy portfolio, slashing our greenhouse gas emissions, and draining the pockets of those who would fund our enemies, or at the very least, grow rich while their countrymen live in poverty.
Such a program would of necessity be long-term, promoting massive research into nonpolluting energy sources, research that would spark desperately needed educational incentives and job creation in science and engineering to maintain our global competitive advantage in the same way that Sputnik and the space race sparked a similar investment and consequent return two generations ago.
Let us not be content with a “green” public sentiment or with consumer adoption of compact fluorescent bulbs and hybrid cars or even with a national CO2 tax or strong emissions cap-and-trade system that moves our market to nonpolluting energy sources. Let us do those things and have the audacity that our Founding Fathers had: The audacity to declare ourselves independent, to take our fate into our own hands, to recognize our global interdependence, but to create for ourselves a future that is more more secure–politically, economically, and environmentally–than the one we see before us today. Let us establish for ourselves and for our children a clean and prosperous energy independent future. That is a vision of New Patriotism I can believe in and a Declaration I can sign.